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MARRIAGE DIGEST: New poll shows California marriage amend. trailing

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–A new poll shows a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in California losing, and the results could have been influenced by a new ballot title that amendment supporters say is biased.

The poll of 1,047 likely voters by the Public Policy Institute of California shows 54 percent oppose the initiative — known as Proposition 8 — while 40 percent support it. The poll was conducted Aug. 12-19.

If passed, the amendment would reverse the California Supreme Court’s decision legalizing “gay marriage.”

In the question posed to likely voters, the polling agency used the same ballot title that was approved by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a Democrat, but criticized as prejudicial by amendment supporters. The ballot title is the exact language voters see on the ballot.

The survey question read, “Proposition 8 is called the ‘Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Initiative Constitutional Amendment.’ If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 8?”

Amendment supporters filed a lawsuit in July seeking to have the ballot title and summary changed, but a lower court and an appeals court refused. The previous ballot title read simply, “Limit on Marriage.”

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for ProtectMarriage.com, the group behind Proposition 8, blamed the polling numbers on the new ballot title and summary, the Contra Costa Times reported.

Previous polls have showed that the phrasing of the polling question can influence the survey results, with questions phrased in the negative — using phrases such as “eliminates rights” — tending to show more support for “gay marriage.” For instance, a May Los Angeles Times/KTLA poll that did not use that language had the amendment winning, with 54 percent supporting it and 35 percent opposing it. Its question asked, “A proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution that may appear on the November ballot would reverse the court’s decision and state that marriage is only between a man and a woman. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against the amendment?”

Additionally, marriage amendments historically have performed considerably better at the ballot than they have in pre-election polls. For example, a Wisconsin amendment in 2006 polled anywhere from 48 to 51 percent in pre-election polls but passed 59-41 percent, and an Oregon amendment in 2004 polled around 50 percent but passed 56-44 percent.

Nevertheless, the new poll shows the potential impact that the ballot title and summary can have on voters, particularly on those who are undecided on the issue on Election Day. The new summary — the language that will appear just below the title on the ballot — reads in part, “Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.” It also says the amendment’s fiscal impact would result in “potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars” to state and local governments over the next few years.” But it concludes that “in the long run” there likely will be “little fiscal impact.”

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for the amendment there and for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. The resolution passed nearly unanimously.

Donations to the effort to pass Proposition 8 can be made online at ProtectMarriage.com. Out-of-state donations are legal.

INDIAN TRIBE RECOGNIZES ‘GAY MARRIAGE’ — In a move that could be a first, an Indian tribe in Oregon has legalized “gay marriage.” The Coquille Indian Tribe passed the new law after a lesbian couple requested that their relationship be legally recognized.

The situation is unique not only because it’s an Indian tribe, but also because the Oregon constitution prohibits “gay marriage.” The Coquilles, though, are a federally recognized sovereign tribe and are not bound by Oregon law, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

The couple legally now is known as Jeni and Kitzen Branting.

At least two Indiana tribes, the Cherokees and the Navajos, ban “gay marriage.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.

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